Project Management Certifications

I’ve had a number of people ask me about project management certification, certificate programs, and education options and just how useful or necessary they are. Sadly, there is no one right answer and a great deal of it will depend on situations but a primer on what’s out there would certainly be helpful.

Project Management Institute (PMI) Certifications

PMI is the professional organization for project management and handles it’s formal certification process (I’ve talked about PMI before). PMI currently has 8 different types of certification but I’m going to pare that down to just the primary two that will be of interest here: the Project Management Professional (PMP) and the Certificate Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

The PMP is the primary certification for project management. If you ever go looking for a job in project management outside the library world, you will almost certainly see this as a requirement. Requirements for the PMP include a four-year degree, 3 years project management experience with 4,500 hours leading projects, and 35 hours of project management education (more on that later). The application to sit for the exam will require you to outline those 4,500 hours and applications can be pulled for a full audit. Once your application is approved you have one year to sit for the exam. The exam must be scheduled at a testing center and is 200 questions. It is rigorous and often requires extended study outside the required 35 hours of education. You can sit for the exam three times in the year after acceptance. For anyone who is only occasionally running projects or doing so as a secondary part of their job this is almost certainly overkill. The 4,500 hour mark is also a significant threshold that many would have difficulty making.

A better option in most cases would be the CAPM. The requirements are much less: a secondary degree and 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education. For those looking at a career transition, this is a great way to get a start at making the 4,500 hours required for the PMP.

Certificate Programs

In most every case a continuing studies certificate program is what I recommend people do. These programs have become so ubiquitous most schools have them. And if it’s the case your current place of employment or alma mater offers them, you might also be able to go for a greatly reduced cost. The fact that there are now so many of these programs can make evaluating them difficult. A good starting point is if they will complete the education requirements for the PMP or CAPM. If they are unable to tell you, you can search a list of Registered Education Providers here. I completed the project management certification though my current employer and found the program to be informative, easy on a new comer to the field, and very engaging.

Formal Education

The rise of project management has included a growing number of undergraduate and graduate programs in project management. This is a difficult one to summarize as the programs end up often being located in a very specific field. For example, we offer a Master of Project Management program but it’s in in School of Engineering and is solely focused on large scale construction and engineering projects. I have seen similar programs focused on software development or manufacturing. If you are looking for a career change, this might be a great option for focused experience but for most cases it will be complete overkill.

Up and coming

As project management continues to grow and develop, new options are showing up all the time. The rise of Agile has carried with it new certifications in the various roles or the system as a whole. I completed a Scrum Master Certification and PMI has recently rolled out a new Agile certification. Beyond project management specifically, there are also any number of business certifications and programs that would be of immense value to a project manager.

So what then….

The various options out there make it difficult to make definitive recommendations, but I think for most anyone in the library world would find a good continuing studies certificate program to meet nearly all their needs. Especially if it can be done in a way where you are getting a discount that will not break the bank. As I said, I completed the one at my place of work and the books (which I probably didn’t have to buy but I knew would make great references) were by far the most costly part. I’ve completed my PMP application but have been holding off on sending it in. While I meet all the requirements, it was very clear I don’t currently have the time to give it the attention it requires. Hopefully once I wrap up my major projects later this year I can start updating you on the whole PMP process.


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